Kimi no Iru Machi: Review
October 27, 2011 Leave a comment
I am a fan of Romance manga; think I always have been, unfortunately there is so much romance manga out there that simply ends up with so much drama and angst that they are almost impossible to read. Luckily Kimi no Iru Machi by Seo Kouji is a romance manga that is a little bit more than that, and although there is an element of drama and some angst involved, they do not override the story itself.
The manga title roughly means ‘A Town Where you Live’, and is about a small town outside Hiroshima, where Kirishima Haruto lives with his friends going about his everyday life of school and chores. Eba Yuzuki suddenly appears in his life; she is a pretty mysterious girl from Tokyo, who, for some unknown reason has decided to come to high school in Harutos town, and it is decided that she will live with his family. We are however told that she is the daughter of a friend of Haruto’s father, although this is never explained, so it seems merely a convenient plot device to have them both meeting and living together.
While this story is a romance, it is shounen rather than shoujo. This was a bonus for me since I lam fond of romance manga, but unfortunately there are too many shoujo manga out there where the characters seem to spend the entire time in angst fuelled depression, beating themselves up over simple mistakes. There are a few such chapters in Kimi no Iru Machi, however as a story it focuses more on the everyday lives of the characters; how the interact, their relationships and their lasting friendships rather than simple dwell on a single romantic relationship.
What is fascinating is that our introduction to Eba leaves a significant number of questions about her past; her connection to Haruto (we find out that she has visited before); why has she decided to come to school near Hiroshima instead of going to one in Tokyo since her family are there (according to Google it is 673km/450m between Tokyo and Hiroshima). There are also a significant number of questions about her past as well, most of which remain partly unanswered right the way through the series.
The romance is also quite slow to start off, and in fact I would suggest that rather than being the entire plot, the romance is more like one small section within the story. And more accurately, there is not a single romance within the story, rather due to the slice-of-life element I mentioned there are a series of relationships to varying degrees that are all played out over the course of not only the high school years but into college as well.
This is one of the major strengths of this series I think; we are shown relationships within a framework of not only high school, but also life outside of it. Very often within manga we will find that romance is contained within this neat little bubble known as ‘high school’, and outside of this there is only lust, sex and drugs. Essentially ‘pure’ romance and relationships can only seem to happen during your high school years in many manga. With Kimi no Iru Machi however, while a significant amount of the time is spent during these years, there is an awful lot more that happens both outside of school, but also after school during college and I feel it may go on.
The way the story is told is also quite a nice change. There are various arcs and the interactions between the characters are portrayed very well. While there is an overarching ‘romance’, which I am sure anyone who reads the manga will get almost immediately (lets face it, romance manga aren’t necessarily the most subtle at times), this relationship is long-term, and importantly happens around other relationships. This in particular is something that I enjoy about this manga, it gives us the possibility of a romantic relationship that is both serious, but also in the background. We are shown that relationships are not necessarily quite as simple as meeting someone, falling in love and marrying; they are more complex and perhaps stressful and even contradictory (and there is one hell of a contradiction halfway through this manga).
Along with the story, we also get beautiful artwork, with detailed characters and backgrounds. I love the way Seo draws the girls in his manga, they are always full of life, very attractive, but almost muted, very normal in many ways. The characters faces are a strong point as well, highly expressive and often saying more than the dialogue itself. We then get onto the backgrounds, while all the backgrounds are great, what particularly struck me was the detail in the rural settings, especially one wonderful scene set in winter with snow and ice. I love character designs, but often it is the background that can set the mood of a chapter, and seeing backgrounds drawn with such care and detail, along with wonderful character designs is a wonderful thing.
There are however a few problems with the story. I feel that the story is too long; there are entire story arcs, or parts of story arcs that seem to be inconsequential or just fade away without any real reason or need to. In particular, there is a section during the middle part of the current story that feels a bit too much like filler. While the story itself isn’t bad, the way it ends, or more accurately just fades suggests that it isn’t all that important. In fact, the latest story arc has been wonderful, and honestly I feel that Seo could have got to it far, far sooner. I know in romance you have drama, and of course it is a long manga that is taking place over several yesrs, however I feel in this case that much of the drama, and various situations with different characters has been forced in some way. There are times that just feels added on, they seem to be forgotten far too easily to be truly important to the overall narrative of Haruto and Eba.
The drama can get on my nerves, but like I mentioned before, overly dramatic manga can be annoying, luckily the drama here generally serves a purpose and while annoying at times, is at least bearable. But again, much of the drama often seems very forced, like the random encounters and ‘sudden plot twists’, it all seems too convenient at times, which does get on my nerves, and I think spoils sections of the manga.
Overall this is a good manga to read, it is enjoyable, smart and having a slice of life element allows the story to be far broader in scope to many shoujo and general romance manga that you can find at the moment. The story is well told and the characters, while occasionally annoying, are relatively believable and it is possible to like them.
I haven’t been able to say much about the story, since there are so many arcs and different elements to the narrative, any real mention of a particular relationship is likely to be a massive spoiler. Suffice to say I think it is definitely worth reading, romance manga are not for everyone, but my overall philosophy is to try any manga and see, if you don’t like it, simply drop the manga. I would however highly recommend anyone to have a look at this manga and decided for themselves, I am certainly enjoying it. Also, this manga has yet to finish, I have only written a review because after 150 chapters I thought it had been around long enough to do so.